Vulnerable Vista 

French Forters worry silos would obstruct river views.

French Fort area residents and institutions are raising concern over two proposed silos that they say will pierce the skyline and interrupt one of the most well-known vistas of the Mississippi River, specifically the view from the ceremonial mounds at Chickasaw Heritage Park.

The American Commercial Barge Line (ACBL) applied to the Shelby County Board of Adjustment to erect two silos along the Mississippi River bluffs that would top out at 145 feet in height. The allowed height for such a structure is 100 feet in an area zoned heavy industrial, provided the structure is more than 100 feet from a residential area.

Lauren Crews owns the historic Marine Hospital in the French Fort area. Crews said while he respects the right of any company to invest in their properties, he's urging the public to consider the integrity of the park and the surrounding area.

"I've canoed the Mississippi River starting from Lake Itasca in Minnesota, all the way down to New Orleans," Crews said. "I can tell you, through all my years of studying this river, that this spot is hands down one of the most historic spots on the Mississippi."

click to enlarge flyby_vulnerablevista.jpg

Crews can rattle off the history of the French Fort area with ease, beginning with the inhabitants of the Chickasaw nation, through the Fort Pickering era, the Union Army occupation, and the influx of Irish and French immigrants at the turn of the 20th century.

"I think this area has become so isolated from an accessibility standpoint, that people are forgetting not only the history here, but the assets we currently have," said Crews, who added that interstate infrastructure has isolated the area to an extent.

Crews felt that the renderings submitted by ACBL to the Board of Adjustment lacked representation from all angles of view. So, he commissioned his own renderings.

In those renderings, which are true to specifications outlined in ACBL's application, the silos surpass the bluff line and the ceremonial mound line.

In spite of the French Fort area having less than ideal access from I-55, the area is still fully appreciated by many. Crews knows that, and so does the executive director of the National Ornamental Metal Museum, Carissa Hussong.

Hussong said that the view and ambience of the Metal Museum will be somewhat compromised should the silos go up, but it's the Chickasaw Park she is most concerned about.

"I've seen buses of tourists stop by just to take in the view," she said. "People come here every day to eat lunch in the park or watch the sunset. Having those silos built would completely change the feel of the area."

ACBL's proposal will go before the Board of Adjustment on April 26th. Some technicalities have yet to be sorted out, such as the exact distance of one proposed silo from Metal Museum Drive, which signals the beginning of a residential area, thus capping the allowed height at 60 feet.

Until then, French Fort residents and business owners said they will continue to raise awareness of the issue.

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